When I tell women that garage mechanics don’t have to be licensed to service or repair their cars few believe me to begin with. How can it be that electricians and gas fitters need to be licensed but unqualified individuals can charge money for tinkering with our car brakes and such like?
Then they end up feeling outraged to think that HM Government is turning a blind eye to the safety implications of a bodged car repair job.
How has the UK’s garage industry managed to get in this mess?
Where we are at
The business case remains the same. Why should any middle of the road garage invest in training and/or accreditation if it doesn’t have to? Yet genuinely good garages see quality as a means to differentiate their business from others.
Sadly, this being the motor industry, there are all too many garages promoting membership of quality based schemes and trade associations that they no longer belong to or never belonged to in the first place.
Measurable signs of a good garage
As I see it, the IMI’s Professional Register is a good place to check out if a mechanic is qualified or not. Over and above this FOXY identifies Motor Codes and Bosch Car Service schemes as a cut above other network standards because both operate to a Trading Standards Institute (TSI) Approved Code of Practice.
If only the TSI (and the OFT before them) had grasped the quality nettle when it could have, by specifying that mechanics must be licensed to fix cars.
And surely the fact that the lionshare of the TSI service and repair Code subscribers are franchised dealerships confirms what most motorists know to be true regardless; that a business bearing a franchised badge will have staff that are qualified to that manufacturers standards?
Sadly the anecdotal evidence is that too many franchised technicians overlook the ethical behaviour to go with mechanical competence, but even so, if you choose a dealership to service or repair your car you SHOULD be able to sleep easier in your bed than choosing a grubby back street garage based on price alone.
The licensing past
Since WWII there have been some 16 self-regulatory industry schemes but all that happened in each case was that the good garages joined in, the bad guys didn’t and no scheme was operated on an independent basis or advocated minimum standards re the qualifications or accreditation of mechanics.
In all instances, as I see it, they have been money-making opportunities for trade associations with a vested interest in growing/retaining their membership ranks not outing the bad guys.
Enter the Government in the guise of the OFT (in 2008) and more recently the Trading Standards Institute. All that has happened since then seems to be an additional layer of bureaucracy, intended to preserve the status quo ie to earn from those garages that consider themselves to be good guys.
God help any motorist who judges a good garage based on anonymous feedback influenced by a convenient location, a cheap price and a friendly receptionist.
God help any motorist who buys garage services on the basis of price alone in this unlicensed industry.
God help all women drivers in an industry that expects us to know what they are talking about when they attempt to baffle us with mechanical mumbo jumbo…
Where we need to be
I believe we need to remove all these layers and add one – license your mechanical staff or leave the garage industry.
This is where the accident repair industry is headed, led by insurers who have set the Kitemark in Body Repairs as their minimum standards, to include repair methods and staff training.
And very recently the DVSA started to ‘out’ MOT stations that flout their rules and standards with safety in mind.
So licensing can surely be done with a better end for motorists in sight…
And if the industry naysayers keep on saying that licensing is too expensive, I’d like to know what price they place on vehicle safety or where they recommend their wives and mothers take their cars to be repaired.
Shouldn’t all motoring mums, dads, sons and daughter be entitled to safe garages run professionally and monitored to maintain these standards?
Let’s have no more of the garage cowboys. Licensing is the only solution. First things first. Then we can look to moving the quality bar higher in terms of ethics, value for money, cleanliness and customer service standards.
PS: Industry comments re licensing follow.
“It took me 6 years of training to be able to carry out professional vehicle repairs and work unsupervised, nearly as long it takes to train as a junior doctor. Surely motorists should expect this standard to keep them and their cars safe?”
“Having a licence system will not only given the consumer better workmanship, I am sure that it will justify higher wages for the correct personnel.”
“This is something the industry has talked about since I was an apprentice back in 1979. It is the only way forward to improve the perception of the industry and get away from the poor image portrayed constantly on TV. We have always worked in a sector that requires an immense amount of training and constant updating of these skills and knowledge, so at long last it is good to see some real moves forward.”
“Manufacturers have spent millions making vehicles safer and more efficient, but anyone can repair them without any form of training or experience. More manufacturers are looking at electric propulsion systems, which have the potential to kill or injure unless technicians are trained to use the correct procedures for repairs and maintenance. Surely this is a reason why licensing should be mandatory?”
“Any regulation that ensures the integrity and quality of technicians working on motor vehicles must be supported. Extending training through approved providers and ATA to a license to practice would be a logical framework for trainees/technicians to progress through. This pathway to excellence must be available to all throughout the industry, franchised and independents alike.”